Twitter has entered Elon Musk’s Twilight Zone

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Elon Musk is concerned The $44 billion deal to buy Twitter inspired many tweets about the drama. One of the most insightful came in the form of a cartoon published last week by one of the company’s in-house software engineers.

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Manu Cornet joined Twitter last year after 14 years at Google, where he used his hobby of drawing cartoons to play pranks on his employer. culture as well as scandals. His last three-panel drawing depicts an anthropomorphic version of the Twitter logo in the form of a bird giving a monologue. “Your strategy is a model of hypocrisy and dishonesty,” it says, apparently referring to Musk. “You trashed me, disrupted my operations and destroyed shareholder value.” Then the angry bird turns to a plaintive question: eventually agree to adopt me?”

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Cornet’s cartoon reveals the essence of the illogical situation in which Twitter finds itself. In April Musk signed a deal buy the company, but this month he announced a pullout, saying the company withheld information needed to count the number of bots on the platform. Twitter responded with a lawsuit that said Musk had made false statements as part of a strategy of “hypocrisy” that showed that he considered the company a “complicated joke” and should be forced to take over Twitter.

Only in Elon Musk’s Twilight Zone does it make sense to require an unreliable opponent to be your boss. Twitter’s strategy can create problems for the company. After the insults thrown by both sides, it will be embarrassing if Twitter leaders manage to get Musk to take over.

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“From a negotiating perspective, relationships are usually the cornerstone of strong and sustainable agreements,” says Paul Fisher, who teaches negotiation at Oxford University’s Saeed School of Business. He advises negotiators to try to separate the substance of the discussion from any personal feelings about the people they are negotiating with. “In this case, that doesn’t seem to have happened, and it doesn’t bode well for a strong relationship going forward,” Fischer says.

Michelle Williams, assistant professor of management and entrepreneurship at the University of Iowa, agrees. “They are not negotiating implementation in any way,” she says. “After this sale goes through, they have to work together, and neither side has created a situation that would make it easier.” Musk said in court late last week that Twitter’s request for a trial in September was unfair due to the complexity of the case, and reiterated his claims that Twitter covered up the true number of bots on its service. Twitter has repeatedly defended bot counting methodology.

Twitter’s deal with Musk won’t be the first complicated interpersonal drama. Williams points to Disney’s purchase of Pixar, which has stalled for years due to animosity between Disney CEO Michael Eisner and Apple’s Steve Jobs. went through in 2006 after Eisner was replaced by Bob Iger.

Dan Ives, chief analyst at Los Angeles-based investment firm Wedbush Securities, believes there are four possible outcomes for Twitter’s dispute with Musk. He estimates that there is a 20 percent chance that Musk will avoid the deal he signed, either by paying the $1 billion fine written into its terms, or by winning in a Delaware clerical court without paying Twitter a dime.

Two other outcomes, which together are much more likely, according to Ives, are that Musk will either buy Twitter for the agreed $44 billion or leave after reaching a settlement agreement in which he will pay the company $5 billion to $10 billion in damages. dollars. “The stock takes into account the significant possibility that Musk will eventually have to pay Twitter a large sum, well over $1 billion, and may still have to buy the company at the agreed-upon price,” Ives says.

The prospect that the inverted logic of Twitter will prevail and Musk will eventually own the social network he now seems to despise has some employees and users are concerned. “There is no one to slow down this deal, even when it is clear that Musk is the last thing Twitter needs,” says Brianna Wu, a former video game developer and founder of the progressive political action group Rebellion PAC. “Investors want this to happen. The council is going to make billions and they will go to court to resolve this issue.”

How does a business deal, agreed upon by both parties and backed by some of the world’s largest banks, turn into such a mess? Javier Marcos Cuevas, an associate professor at the Cranfield School of Management, describes the process that brought Twitter here as an “escalation of commitment” that forced Musk and Twitter to change their original positions.

According to Marcos Cuevas, Musk initially had to offer a relatively high price to be considered a credible buyer. “Then it could have happened that he realized, after seeing the analysts’ opinion on the price, that he paid too much,” he says. This sentiment may have been reinforced by the sharp decline in financial markets shortly after the deal closed. Twitter’s lawsuit alleges that this was the main reason for Musk’s statements about the bot issue.

With regard to Twitter, Marcos Cuevas believes that the company’s management has moved from believing that the company deserves a high price to no longer believing that it can even sell the company. Such a reversal forces Musk to try to complete the deal by securing a high bid or forcing him to pay significant damages. “There has been a complete rethinking of the expectations of both parties,” says Marcos Cuevas, “which has led to a lack of trust and confidence, as well as a fundamental rethinking of their original positions.”

Many Twitter employees fear that Musk would be a poor steward of the company and its maintenance. Managers told them not to discuss the purchase or Musk on Slack, says one employee who suspects executives are more favorable to the deal. “I think that many top managers are more supportive of Elon than the staff,” says the employee. “They own Tesla, they have shares, and they like Musk’s mindset.”

Williams suggests that if Musk does take over the company, he can ease tensions by appointing someone else to run the company. “It could smooth out the ruffled feathers,” she says.

So far, life in the Twilight Zone is tiring Twitter workers. Kornet, the cartoonist who captured the company’s predicament, feels it among his colleagues. “Perhaps there is some fatigue.” he says, “New twists keep piling up.”

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